Rorie Cartier lands to lead Patriots Point attraction
By Peg Eastman
Rorie Cartier, PhD, new executive director of Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Images provided.
Upon meeting Rorie Cartier, the new executive director of Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, one is immediately impressed with his youthful vitality and “Southern charm.” This is not surprising, as Dr. Cartier is a native of New Orleans who was imbued with the culture of that venerable city by listening to stories of the past told by his grandparents. And, of course, he loved the French Quarter and celebrating Mardi Gras.
Good teachers and reading books reinforced his love of history and caused him to pursue that direction when he went to LSU for a couple of years before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Afterward, his family relocated to North Carolina, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). A scholarship at the Universiteit van Amsterdam caused him to go abroad for Master of Arts in European studies. Not only did he learn conversational Dutch; he took advantage of traveling as much as he could before returning to University of North Carolina to acquire another master’s degree. Good advisors caused him to choose Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, to earn a PhD in modern Russian history.
Armed with impressive academic credentials, Cartier returned to Louisiana, where he taught at New Orleans University and served in several leadership positions at the National World War II Museum New Orleans.
Five years later Cartier found himself in Fredericksburg, Texas, serving as assistant director of development for the Admiral Nimitz Foundation. When the museum director of the National Museum of the Pacific War (NMPW) retired, Cartier was encouraged to apply for the job. The National Museum of the Pacific War is the only institution in the United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific and Asiatic theaters in World War II.
It was his first job as a museum director, and Cartier was up to the challenge. Working closely with staff and the community to expand educational and public outreach, the NMPW obtained accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and went on to affiliate with the Smithsonian Institute. This alignment required years of dedicated work and enabled NMPW to take advantage of the wide range of enrichment the Smithsonian Affiliations program.
While in Fredericksburg, Cartier also served on the board of directors for the local convention and visitors bureau, the SPCA, the Texas Association of Museums and the American Alliance of Museums Visiting Committee for Accreditation.
When the director of Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum retired in 2021, the museum conducted a nationwide search for his replacement. With a small fleet of World War II National Historic Landmark ships and a focus on preservation and education of America’s history and values, it seemed like a perfect complement to Cartier’s career at National Museum of the Pacific War, and he applied for the position.
Cartier was selected from a nationwide pool of more than 90 applicants. The museum is excited about what he brings to the organization with his “combination of energy and experience as an educator, fundraiser and service at two of the most respected military museums in America,” according to Wayne Adams, vice chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority Board.
On a more personal note, Cartier loves to read books — anything from the classics to medieval legends and modern times. His “quiet time” is running, both short distances and marathons, and he was sorry to have missed the Cooper River Bridge Run this year. He and his wife, Erin, plan to continue community involvement in Charleston once things get settled after relocating from Texas.
As Patriots Point’s 50th anniversary is just around the corner, more innovative things are on the horizon. Cartier wants to see museum accreditation, a process that requires three to four years. He also wants to remain relevant by expanding Patriots Point’s core audience through a combination of virtual and in-person activities. He envisions focusing on education, preservation and community engagement and will utilize the services of a strategic planning consultant to assist in achieving those goals.
In September Patriots Point offered access to this year’s Admiral Nimitz Foundation Virtual Symposium hosted by National Museum of the Pacific War. The theme, “A Catalyst for Change: Diversity in World War II,” explored how diverse groups that supported and fought in the war in the Pacific overcame adversity both abroad and on the home front.
In October Patriots Point will provide interview space aboard the Yorktown aircraft carrier so that volunteers from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America can interview veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. The project’s goal is to show the realities of war and military service of veterans from World War I through the present day. Although the Veterans History Project was created by Congress in 2000, it has yet to be widely publicized locally. Volunteer participation and veteran input will enable engagement with the community while honoring veterans who participate. The Library of Congress is pleased with Patriots Point’s involvement in extending their outreach. And all are delighted that Medal of Honor recipient General James Livingston and Admiral James Flatley are among those who have signed on for the inaugural interviews.
New things are happening at Patriots Point, and Rorie Cartier is a man to watch — so keep posted.
My appreciation to Arthur Ravenel, Glenn McConnell, Edwin Breeden, Nick Butler, Robert Stockton, John White, Alston Middleton, Prioleau Alexander and Jessica Steinberg for contributing to this article.
From Hog Island to Patriots Point
A Navy town since the U.S. Naval Shipyard was established in 1901, it was fitting that Charleston businessmen and politicians wished to establish a national naval museum as the Vietnam conflict was winding down and American Revolution Bicentennial was fast approaching. The Charleston Trident Chamber of Commerce is credited for organizing local support for a museum that was publicly announced in July 1971 and later taken over by the state. Hog Island, undeveloped land at the mouth of the Cooper River, was selected — an ideal location not far from the site of colonial Patriots’ stunning defeat of the mighty British Navy on June 28, 1776.
As “Hog Island” was a difficult name to market, the press invited suggestions, and the program chairman of the Charleston Bicentennial Commission came up with Patriots Point (no apostrophe), much to the relief of both South Carolina’s national representatives and local promoters. The project was approved by the state in 1974.
Concurrently, the Navy Department approved the donation of Yorktown, a World War II decommissioned aircraft carrier, to Patriot’s Point Development Authority. Named after the colonials’ famous victory in Virginia, the ship’s proud service included the Pacific Theater in World War II, where it earned two battle stars and the Presidential Citation; later she earned five battle stars for Vietnam service. Yorktown also served as a recovery ship for the Apollo 8 space mission.
In 1975, the “Fighting Lady” was eased into a permanent berth dredged from the mud of Hog Island and was dedicated on the 200th anniversary of the Navy on October 13, 1975. Ex-USS Laffey DD-724, ex-USS Clamagore SS-343, ex-NS Savannah, ex-USCGC Ingham and ex-USCGC Comanche followed, and today Patriots Point features the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S. plus a Congressional Medal of Honor Museum. With close to 300,000 visitors annually, it is one of South Carolina’s most popular tourist attractions.